Tough History Topics for Children
Children are curious and sometimes they overhear or come across a picture or article that shows an event in the past or present that may be scary to the child. It can be difficult to explain why these events happened and to make sure that you are handling the topic with care by making sure not to frighten the children even more. Many difficult topics in history are not taught until middle school or later, but children in elementary school can still have questions about these events in history. This is where books can be a useful tool to approach these topics with students and make sure they are not be exposed to anything too advanced. Here are a few titles that I have come across recently that I think handle their topic in history in a practical format for the age group they are appealing to.
Hidden by LoÏc Dauvillier, Marc Lizano, and Greg Salsedo. 9781596438736. 2014. Gr 2-5.
The events of the Holocaust are told in a graphic novel format and tells the story of Dounia. The story begins with Dounia as an old woman who begins to tell her granddaughter a secret about her childhood that she has never told anyone. She begins to tell about when she was a little girl living in Paris with her parents that she had to wear a Star of David, experienced her parents being taken to a concentration camp, and hiding with different families. Dounia’s story is told very thoughtfully and with care, even as she is reunited with her mother and sees how much of a toll the concentration camp has taken on her. There is a small afterward in the back that discusses the Nazi occupation in France.
Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books by Susan L. Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya. 9780803737471. 2012. Gr PS-2.
The topic of the Egyptian uprising is a few years old, as is this book, but I think this title is still relevant (especially with similar situations happening in Ukraine, Venezuela, Syria…) and can show the good that can happen during and from these events. The use of construction paper to create the setting helps lessen the severity of the event and also tells the remarkable individuals that joined with the library director in protecting the Alexandria Library during the 2011 uprising. Additional information (including pictures) on the revolution in Egypt, the library, and the artistic process to create the book is also included.
Wall by Tom Clohosy Cole. 9780763675608. 2014. Gr PS-3.
The Berlin Wall is tackled in this picture book. Since this book’s recommended interest level is preschool to grade 3, the topic has to be handled carefully and Tom Clohosy Cole does this very well. The pages use the power of darker colors to portray the East side of the wall where our narrator is trapped with his mother and sister. Warmer, brighter colors are used to picture the West side of wall where the family is trying to escape and be with their father. This picture book isn’t going to be published until October, but I thought it fit within this topic well and it is definitely one to consider adding to library collections.
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